Skip to main content

tv   [untitled]    February 11, 2012 3:00pm-3:30pm EST

3:00 pm
viewers behind the scenes at archives, museum, and historic sites. the 2,600-acre estate of montpelier was once home to the nation's fourth president, james madison and his wife dolley. it lies about 90 miles south of the nation's capital in orange county, virginia, the national trust for historic preservation owns the property that is managed by the nonprofit montpelier foundation. "american history tv" visited the site for a tour with the foundation's president, michael quinn. >> welcome to the home of james and dolley madison. this house really tells madison's entire life story, and the house as it appears now reflects his vision for his lifelong home. the core of the house was actually built by his father, and madison moved in when he was only about 14 years old. in fact, later in life he talks about walking from the old farmhouse over here carrying some of the lighter furniture. but if you look at the house
3:01 pm
now, you can actually pick out the original core built by his father. if you look on the -- it's the doorway on the far left, just to the right of it, you'll see a line in the brick where the brick was stitched together. that's the original corner of the house built by madison's father. and the house stood like this for 30 years. and then james married the love of his life, dolley madison, and after four years as a member of congress, he decided to retire from congressional service and come home to montpelier. at that point he extended the main block of the house about 30 feet. and he added this second door over here. and two windows. and he also added the portico. in fact, the portico was an essential part. it wasn't just an aesthetic
3:02 pm
element, it was an essential part of the functioning of the house, because there was no interior hallway connecting these two houses on the first floor. so, james and dolley lived on the left side. his parents and their other children lived on the right side. and the way the two households called on each other was via the front doors and the shelter of the portico. now, the house remained in this configuration only for about ten years. and then madison was elected president of the united states. and with that then huge salary of $25,000 a year, he embarked on another renovation and expansion campaign of his home. he added the one-story wings on either side. the wing on this side he created a private librarlibrary. the wing the other side he really designed as a private apartment for his mother. his father had passed away at this time. and then he added the door
3:03 pm
designed with the help of his good friend thomas jefferson as the real centerpiece, welcoming you into montpelier. so, this home as it now stands really reflects james madison's vision for his home and it also tells his entire life story from a youth to his marriage to his ascension to the position of president of the united states of america. so, let's go in and learn about james and dolley. madison would have welcomed you into this room he created at that last remodeling, his drawing room. and really was where every member of the public was welcomed. you know, with virginia hospitality and madison's statesmanship in creating the nation, he was visited constantly. foreign visitors, rising
3:04 pm
politicians in america, andrew jackson came at one point, and also just the merely curious. well, they all would have been welcomed, they would have been welcomed in this room. and madison really created this room to make a powerful impression. visitor after visitor talked about the presidential splendor of this room. it really did reflect his entire career as a statesman, as a virginia planter, as a force in the creation of the american nation. they also talk about it as a real history lesson, and madison intended it that way, because for madison, the history of humanity was really his laboratory. and he had studied past attempts at self-government, so he knew that what america was today was founded on the past. and this room tells you that history. in fact, the picture over here, kind of shocking i'm sure for many of his visitors, but, in
3:05 pm
fact, that's a pan figure and a nymph. this is alluding to the ancient world, the ancient greece, to rome, the birthplace of democracy, the foundation of the philosophy and ideas on which the american constitution was based. across from this painting is a huge depiction of the sufferer. for madison, that picture talks about the next epoch in human history after christ's lifetime. and finally the third chapter of human history is told on this wall. the president of the united states. and, of course, he focuses on the president because it also emphasizes one of the great inventions of the american constitution which is the peaceful transfer of power from leader to leader. now, he's followed a very typical, standard depiction of the president, george washington, of course, is hung the highest.
3:06 pm
and below him should be the next three presidents, john adams ii, thomas jefferson, third, but where his picture should be hung as the fourth president, madison hangs the picture of the fifth president, james monroe. and visitors note that. why doesn't he put his own portrait here? and then as they look around the room, they discover that madison has hung his own portrait as one visitor said in the corner behind the door showing his modesty, but he's also hung his portrait next to his bloeloved dolley. again, he's telling you a lot about himself, the important thing in his life. now, over this portrait of himself, he hung a picture of his best friend, thomas jefferson, and next to it a portrait of mary magdalene. now, family tradition in the madison family is that that portrait was a gift to madison
3:07 pm
from thomas jefferson. i long thought that madison hung it next to jefferson's portrait to poke a little fun at his chose friend. but you also see some other features of this room that impressed visitors. the bust. these are the notable people of american history from george washington to the marquis de lafayette. it was a functional room here. they tea here. they welcome their guests. as i said, they had many visitors. and while every visitor had access to this room and would be welcomed by madison or dolley or another member of the family, madison also used this room to control all of that public interest and to give himself some privacy. because unless you knew him or had a letter of introduction, you really wouldn't see any more of the house than this room. you'd be welcomed here very graciously. you might be served some punch,
3:08 pm
and then you'd be on your way. so, you only went beyond this room into the other rooms of the house if you were a member of the family or a friend. now let's go into the south side of the house, which was the private apartment of madison's mother. we passed through the original entry hall of the house, and you really understand how this functioned. this big wide space with doors at either side, throw them open for a cooling cross breeze in the summer, but this also is where people would have carried out activities, but this is the older part of the house we're in now. and in this room over here, it later became mother madison's room. however, and visitors to mother madison said they would find her often sitting on the sofa with her knitting and her prayer book. she lived to be 98 years old, and she was only 20 when madison was born.
3:09 pm
so, she was always a part of the madison household. now, an important aspect of this house is that it is the home in which madison moved at a young age. and, in fact, in this exhibit we're showing you that move. madison is shown on the left, and a young slave by the name of sani born almost the same time as madison is helping him move. sani remained at montpelier his entire life, and, in fact, he accompanied madison when he was sent to college at princeton. while at this point in their lives there are many similarities, as they age their life experiences were much, much different, and, of course, it could be no other way given the reality of slavery in america at the time. now, madison's parents realized his incredible ability. ultimately they sent him to princeton, then called the college of new jersey.
3:10 pm
but prior to that, they really prepared him. they placed him with a private tutor by the name of donald robertson, and madison studiy i with donald robertson for five years. later in life madison was to write everything i became i owed to that man. he really was the rigorous training and inspiration by an amazing teacher that prepared madison to take on such a strong role in building the american nation. we're going to go over to the dining room now. take a look at how james and dolley entertained their guests. we're now entering the madison's dining room. this is in the part of the house that madison added with his marriage to dolley, so this is
3:11 pm
his first expansion of the home. and madison and dolley entertained constantly, and they brought to montpelier the style of entertaining that they had first developed during madison's presidency at the white house. in fact, we created a table with ghost of the famous visitors who came calling from andrew jackson here to the marquis d de lafayette, to jefferson, james monroe. and what really starts bringing this room together is the wallpaper. we know from our research that james and dolley strongly preferred french influence in decor and in their style. and this paper's a replica of one made by a frenchman who had relocated to philadelphia and was introducing french-inspired papers to america. we know that madisons ordered
3:12 pm
wallpaper from him, and this is a replica of one of the ones he produced at that time. it creates the feeling of a tent in this room. really makes the corners kind of dissolve away and creates a very intimate spacious feel for his guests. but the thing every visitor noted about this is that madison was not seated at the head of the table. he seated himself on the side of the table. and it was his wife, dolley, who stood at the head, who seated. and that meant that she was really oreal really running the dinner, she was calling for the service or pouring the soup or asking the servants to pour the wine and conducting the conversation. they really developed this form of entertaining while madison was president, and it shocked visitors at first. that was not the role the woman talk on in the household. that was the man's role. but dolley was so good at it, it, and they all realized that madison was so busy with the
3:13 pm
affairs of government that both where or the course of the conversation. and it really tells you a lot about the relationship between james and dolley. they were very younger and even though she was raised a quaker, it turned out she had incredible flair, putting people at ease, for really knowing them as people, and caring for them. and she loved the limelight, so between the two of them, madison gave that role to her, while he continued to focus on the weighty work of government and politics. from this room we're going to go into the adjoining is madison's. we're entering madison's library, and for madison, this is one of the most important
3:14 pm
rooms in this house. in fact, he added this on to the house when he became president and he created a very spacious place to hold his books and to provide the area that he wanted to work. as this room was being built, we have a letter from his builder, james bindmore, and he says if i put a window next to the fireplace, it will give you a view of the temple that you plan to build as well. he went on to assure him there will still be plenty of room for the book shelves for all of your books. we know madison okayed that idea because the windowed is there. and madison really used this area in the years after his presidency. because he set for himself an amazing project, which is to create an archive of the united states constitutional convention. and as you look around, you see some of the works, some of the thoughts he put into that. he had taken very careful notes at the constitutional convention, and he went back
3:15 pm
over those notes. he expanded them and wrote them out carefully. he added annotation, in one or two cases he also went to other delegates. he wrote to other delegates or their families asking if they still had copy of the speech that was given at the convention. by the end of his life, madison had put together a thorough record of the constitutional convention. it filled almost 1,000 pages, and for him, this was an important part of the legacy of the founding of america. because when he had been preparing for that convention, he had carried out a great deal of research to find out how other attempts at self-government, at confederations had been created, and what was the intentions of those creators and he'd come up blank. there were no records. so, madison wrote a little introduction to this, and he described his goal at providing
3:16 pm
a record for those who in other places or at a later time might be striving for liberty, could learn from the example the decisions and the debates of the american founders. he had a real sense of history and a sense of legacy. it also tells you that he still wasn't entirely certain about the outcome of the constitution. even at the end of his life, although it had been in effect for 40-some years, he did not know it would survive. his library also tells you a lot about madison's intellectual life. it's filled with globes, maps. he followed current events. he subscribed to newspapers. he welcomed visitors to discuss political issues before the nation. he weighed in on topics such as nullification and secession by writing the equivalent of editorials that were published in the paper. these books are the identical
3:17 pm
edition of books and the same titles that madison owned and many of them actually may be madison's. sadly his library which totaled 4,000 volumes by the end of his life was lost after his debt. in his will he had provided that his library should go to the university of virginia, but unfortunately the estate, montpelier estate, dolley placed it in the hands of her son from her first marriage, and he seems never to have carried out that provision of the will. from here we're going to go into a nearby room. this room became james madisomas study at the end of his life. it's very close to his library, and therefore he didn't have to move very far. in his old age -- and he lived to be 85 -- he suffered terribly from arthritis, so even walking was difficult, and his hands became crippled. in this room we show a bust made of madison when he had just
3:18 pm
passed 80 years of age. this copy of the original is actually made from a life mask, in other words, the plaster was put on his face to really capture the structure of his face, the lines and the sense of time that has passed. he was the last surviving member of the constitutional convention. he died on june 28th, 1836. at the age of 85. and he died in this room. we have an account of his death that actually is provided by a man paul jennings who was a slave, a personal assistant to madison in his final years. >> i was always with mr. madison until he died and shaved him every other day for 16 years. six months before his death he was unable to walk and spent most of his time inclined on the couch but his mind was bright, and with his numerous visitors, he talked with as much animation
3:19 pm
and strentssgth of voice as eve heard him in his best days. i was present when he died. that morning suki brought him his breakfast, his usual. he could not swallow. his niece mrs. willis said, what is the matter, uncle james? nothing more than a change of mind, my dear. his head instantly dropped, and he ceased breathing. as quietly as the snuff of a candle goes out. >> after his debath, as madisons family and executors went through his papers. they found something he had written. he entitled it "advice for my country" and he intended it to remain private until after he died, but it contained what he thought was the most important words he could convey to his fellow americans, and he wrote, "the advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the union of the states be
3:20 pm
cherished and perpetuated, let the open enemy to it be regarded as a pandora with her box open and the disguised one as the serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into paradise." this comment tells you so much about him. first, it tells you that his long, careful study of the american nation told him the most important thing was to keep the union together. but we also see his deep training and understanding, as he refers both to the classical world with his reference to pandora, and the biblical world with his reference to the serpent and the garden. we're going to go upstairs and take a look at the bedrooms and what used to be madison's library. now, interestingly enough, james and dolley never had any children. yet this house was always filled with children and family members. madison came from a large
3:21 pm
family. in fact, on his 50th birthday, he noted that he had 50 nieces and nephews. most of them lived in this area, so they were constantly visiting, and all the bedrooms on the second floor would have been filled. this upstairs room was james and dolley's private bedroom. it's one of the more elegant rooms on this floor of the house. we're in the process of furnishing this room. the bed you see here has come to us from a family member, a collateral descendant, of james madison, with a strong family tradition of having been their bed here at montpelier. and as you can see, we're still -- we have not yet begun to really furnish this and dress this as it would have been when the madisons were here. the sofa is made by a washington, d.c., sofa furniture maker, william worthington and we know from surviving records that james and dolley purchased
3:22 pm
a sofa from this furniture maker. this gorgeous mantle here that madison installed later, and it really has touches that also show the feminine side of dolley's presence here. but this was one of the best rooms in the house, and the reason for it is the spectacular view out the windows, of the blue ridge, and the amount of light that filled this room. in fact, ten years later, when madison put those one-story wings on the mansion, he created the roofs of those as flat decks, and he did that so that some of his bedrooms would have their own private terrace. and it's a glorious space. one of his visitors even wrote, i've got the best bedroom in the house. i've got my own private porch. and this is what he meant. a place to catch some fresh air, to have a spectacular view of the blue ridge mountains. the next room we're going to see is the old library.
3:23 pm
it's just across the hall, and this is where the books were stored until madison put the 1810 addition on the home. we're now entering the old part of the house, and one door madison put in when he first added that addition, when he came home with dolley was this one. and he did it because this was the library of the house, and madison wanted access to his books. in fact, madison came home in 1786, the year before the constitutional convention, and his family said he barely emerged from this room except to eat, because madison devoted himself to a study of human history. when he went to the constitutional convention, he wasn't any more patriotic than the others, but he was more prepared. madison studied every attempt at self-government, at confederation that he could find in human history.
3:24 pm
and from that study, he really discovered a record of failure. again and again, democracies, republics, confederations have fallen apart and failed. but from all of those failures, madison gained some new insights. one of his most powerful is he concluded that standard belief that democracy will work best in a small city-state like athens is completely wrong, because what his research told him was that in that kind of environment, yes, everyone may know each other, but it's very easy for a single individual, charismatic individual, to gain power or for a faction, those who own land, those who don't own land, to gain power. and the first thing they do is pass laws that oppress everyone else. it did not lead to freedom. madison concluded that a great protection of liberty is to create a large country.
3:25 pm
there's so many factions, so many interest groups, so many people vying for leadership that no single one would be able to gain control. so, from this study, he concluded that america needed to be knit together, the 13 states needed to be knit together as a single nation, a true union. the way to achieve that, he concluded, was for the new constitution to be ratified not by the state legislatures, but to be ratified by the people of america. and thus our constitution begins with the words "we the people of the united states." if you look at this wall, you learn much more about madison's insights and thinking. one of the delegates at the constitutional convention said, what makes him great is he is not only a philosopher but a politician. what that meant is that madison knew his stuff, he also knew
3:26 pm
human nature. after all, he'd spent the previous ten years in american politics, working in the virginia general assembly, working in the confederation congress. he knew that people would never be better than they really are. so, other thoughts he brought to framing our new constitution is make people's ambition counter other ambition, therefore, he proposed separation of powers. these ideas he knit together in two research papers he wrote in this very room. one titled "the vices of the political system of the united states," the other an examination of ancient confederacies. and these were really his roadmaps that he used guiding the discussions of the constitutional convention. in fact, when madison got there, he arrived early. the rest of the virginia delegation soon arrived, and he caucused with them. he put together a plan of action, and he persuaded the governor of virginia, one of the
3:27 pm
delegates, introduce it in the opening days. it was dubbed the virginia plan, and what madison proposed was really the framework of our constitution. it incorporated his ideas, his understanding of self-governance as a means to achieve liberty, and thus he was accorded the title father of the constitution in his own lifetime. but it was really in this room that madison brought these ideas together. it is in this room, the old library of montpelier, where madison thought more deeply and with more effect about government than any other individual in history. we're going to exit the house by the rear door and see the back porch that james and dolley created. they also created this large lawns you see, initially was an
3:28 pm
extension of the house. their visitors could talk about the barbecue party that dolley organized where hundreds would come, in fact, dolley wrote it's more comfortable entertaining 100 people at montpelier than 20 in the white house. you also meet here the lord and lady of the manor, dolley and james madison. this statue area was created life size, and we challenged the sculptor to create not just the likeness of james and dolley, but the relationship between them. here you see madison reading. he always had his head in a book. dolley approaches and the madison's immediate reaction is to share with her one of the items he has just read. it shows a sense of affection, but it also shows the intellectual relationship between them. if you want to learn about james madison, the father of the constitution, and his wife dolley who inspired the title first lady, there's no place to
3:29 pm
come but montpelier, in organize, virginia. montpelier encompasses four square miles of land, many features and attractions, but most of all, it's a place to learn about the ideas of the founding of america and the constitution which still governs our life today. >> this is one of a series of "american artifacts" programs featuring james madison's montpelier, for schedule information and to view "american history tv" programs online, visit our website, the richard nixon presidential library convened a symposium titled understanding richard nixon and his era. this program is the first panel discussion from that conference and addresses the former president's life story, from his parents' political views to the writing of his memoirs. this is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on